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Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorneys

Understanding Social Security Disability benefits

If you are unable to work because of a disability, how will you pay for medical expenses, living expenses and long-term care? If you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Social Security Income (SSI). Unfortunately, getting approved for SSD benefits isn’t always easy, even when you may be entitled to them. Hiring an SSD attorney can drastically improve your chances of getting approved and receiving the money and benefits you need. From the initial application process to the hearings, your Social Security Disability attorney will be with you every step of the way.

 
 

What Is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

Social Security Disability Income and Social Security Income are not the same and are actually two separate government programs. Social Security Disability Income is available to workers who have accumulated sufficient work credits in their lifetime. Social Security Income is based on financial need and is available to those individuals who do not have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI.

Why Hire a Lawyer

The SSD benefits process is long and oftentimes complex. Hiring an experienced SSD attorney to represent you through this process is important because the vast majority of SSD claims are denied at the initial claim level. Most SSDI and SSI claims will need to go to a hearing before benefits will be received. Having an SSD attorney on your side can help you win your claim and begin collecting the benefits to which you are entitled. Your attorney will ensure that all medical evidence is presented clearly and that your case is properly developed prior to your hearing. They know what questions to ask your doctor and what medical tests the judge will likely need to see before making their determination. With so much is at stake, it’s important to call the Arkansas SSD attorneys at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.

 

The Social Security Disability Benefits Claim Process

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you are required to prove to the Social Security Administration that your disability is serious enough to qualify. The Social Security Administration has established a five-step evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled.

1

Step 1: Are you working? –Social Security must first determine whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA).  If you are engaging in work activity that is both substantial and gainful, Social Security will not find you disabled regardless of how severe your physical or mental impairments are.  If you are not engaging in SGA, the evaluation proceeds to the second step.

2

Step 2: Do you have a severe medical impairment? – At step two, Social Security must determine whether you have a “severe” medical impairment. A medical impairment is “severe” if it significantly limits your ability to perform basic work activities. A medical impairment that has no more than a minimal effect on your ability to work is “not severe”.  If you are determined to have a “severe” impairment, the evaluation proceeds to the third step.

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Step 3: Does your medical impairment meet a listing? – At step three, Social Security will determine whether your medical impairment is of a severity to meet the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404.  If your medical impairment is severe enough to meet the criteria of a listing, you will be determined disabled.  If not, the evaluation proceeds to step four.

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Step 4: Can you perform past work? –  Step four requires Social Security to determine whether you have the functional capacity to perform the requirements of your past relevant work.  If you have the functional capacity to do your past relevant work, you are not disabled.  If you are unable to do any past relevant work (or do not have any past relevant work), the evaluation proceeds to the last step. 

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Step 5: Can you do any other work? – At step five, Social Security must determine whether you are able to do any other work considering your functional capacity, age, education and work experience.  If you are able to do other work, you are not disabled.  If you are unable to do other work, you will be found disabled.

 

Medical Impairments that Can Qualify You for Social Security Disability

As mentioned above in “step three”, there are a significant number of medical impairments that can qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits if it is determined that your medical impairment is of a severity to meet the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404. This list of medical impairments is often referred to as the “Blue Book.”   Social Security will review all of your medical records to determine if your medical impairments “meet a listing.”  Some of the more common medical impairments found in the “Blue Book” are listed below:

  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hemophilia or blood disorder
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Immune disorders
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lupus
  • Kidney disease
  • Amputation
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroparesis
  • Avascular Necrosis
  • Depression – Bi-polar
  • Cancer – Sarcoma
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • COPD
  • Peripheral/Artery Disease

What If Your Medical Impairment Is Not Listed?

Medical evidence needed to prove your disability may include, but is not limited to:

  • Physical exams
  • MRI, CAT scan reports
  • X-rays
  • Mental health records
  • Blood work results
  • Emergency room report

What If My Social Security Disability Claim Is Denied?

If your SSD claim is denied, it is important that you speak to an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our attorneys know how difficult and lengthy the appeals process can be. In order to build the best case, you need to understand why your SSD claim may have been denied.

Some of the most common reasons for denial include:

High Income

You may not be working as much as you would like, but if you are making more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit, you will be denied benefits. Part-time work is sometimes allowed, but if you are making $1,180.00 per month (the SGA limit in 2018 for non-blind individuals) you will be denied.

Disability Severity

If it is determined that your medical impairments are not severe enough, or expected to improve within twelve (12) months, your claim will be denied. Your attorney can review your medical evidence to determine if additional medical testing or medical treatment is necessary to support your claim.

Ignoring Prescribed Treatment

If you are being treated by a doctor, but you fail to follow the prescribed therapy to improve your medical impairment, then you could be denied SSD benefits. There are some acceptable medical excuses the SSA will allow, such as mental illness or physical limitations. Financial hardships and religious beliefs may also be acceptable excuses.

Drug or Alcohol Abuse

If your alcoholism or drug addiction is a contributing factor to your disability and inability to work, then you may be denied SSD benefits.

 

Factors That Could Affect Your SSD Benefits

There are numerous factors that may affect your SSD benefits and the amount you would receive. Some of those factors include:

  • Turning 18 – If you were receiving SSI benefits as a child, turning 18 could put those benefits in jeopardy. Your impairments will be reevaluated as an adult before being able to collect SSI as an adult.
  • Reaching retirement age – Once you reach retirement, your SSD benefits will be transferred to the retirement benefit program.
  • Improved medical condition – If the medical condition for which you were receiving disability benefits improves, you may lose your ability to collect SSD.
  • Returning to work – If you return to work while you are receiving SSD, then you could raise your SGA and no longer be eligible for SSD.
  • Marital status – If you remarry or get married while receiving SSI benefits, your spouse’s income could change the level of your payments.
  • Crime conviction – If you have been convicted of a crime, you may lose your ability to collect SSI or SSDI.

 

What If My Child Is Disabled?

If your child is disabled, they will be eligible to receive Social Security Income until they are 18 years old. To become eligible for SSI, you must clearly establish your child’s impairment results in severe and functional limitations and can be expected to last for at least 12 months. The Social Security Administration has a separate “Blue Book” of impairments and conditions that would qualify for benefits. Once your child turns 18, their impairments will be evaluated based on the definition of disability for adults.

I Qualified for SSD Benefits — Now What?

Since the application and approval process for SSD benefits can take a long time, you will likely be relieved when you qualify for benefits. Once you are qualified for SSD benefits, you will be paid in monthly installments. For SSDI benefits, the amount you receive is based on your average lifetime earnings before you were disabled, not on how much income you have or your disability. SSI benefits are capped at no more than $750.00 per month, but can be further reduced depending on your financial situation.

 

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